Brain structure grows excessively in children with autism – teach me about science

yesterday celebrateWorld Autism Awareness Day“which seeks, among many other tasks, to reduce the stigmatization of children and people with autism spectrum disorder (ASD). This lifelong neurological condition that develops since childhood is currently the subject of intense study because, like many other diseases of this type, its complexity, It does not allow to make generalizations for all patients, therefore, many characteristics, causes and consequences of the disorder, remain to be clarified.

Various studies have shown that individuals with autism experience altered states of brain development after birth, which in turn generate changes in behavior and in the perception of their environment. A current study was published in American Journal of Psychiatry Show an overgrowth of amygdala Between 6 and 12 months in children with autism.

The amygdala is a brain structure largely responsible for the development of social behavior, which is considered to play an important role in the development of autism, however, the timing and onset of brain changes during childhood are unknown and the relationship between them with behavioral changes typical of autism spectrum disorder.

This is the first study to examine and follow the course of amygdala development to determine when the overgrowth occurs and how this information can help improve medical care for the disorder.

The study was conducted by obtaining brain MRI images at 6 and 12 months of age, in 58 infants subsequently diagnosed with autism and 109 infants who were unlikely to develop autism spectrum disorder. The results showed that at 6 months of age, all individuals had normal tonsil size, but on the second evaluation at 12 months of age, the autistic children showed significantly larger tonsil size, indicating that abnormal growth rate occurs in this time period.

In this way, the condition occurs in the development of this structure before the first symptoms of the disorder begin to appear (12 months) and well before diagnosis (between 24 and 36 months). This could mean that brain changes occur gradually during early postnatal development, and in a particular case of the amygdala, its development precedes the onset of the first diagnosed social deficits in autism.

Finally, given this scenario, the importance of developing early interventions that can prevent, at least to a certain extent, the gradual change of brain structure is highlighted, implying conclusive investigations into periods prior to the presence of the first symptoms. Which means there is already functional impairment.

The full study in American Journal of Psychiatry.

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